Monday, December 21, 2020

As I’ve established for the last 14 Sundays, I am not a fan of overloading our schedules when there are numerous football games to hold my attention. I had already resigned myself to missing most of football this year for this project, but that was before the world shut down and blocked us from diving into these celebrations as deeply as we’d have liked to. This was a bit of an issue, as many Sundays tend to be jam-packed with potential parties. Thankfully, yesterday was an exception that fit our mood. We coasted through the day and did what we could. I’ve mentioned several times this month that we are winding the project toward its conclusion, not by ramping up the celebration count but instead by taking it easy. We hit our goal. We’ve earned these breaths.

Dot Your I’s Day

This is a celebration of one’s ability to focus on their work and catch all the little details with care and concern. I suppose people are (usually) planning big, elaborate Christmas dinners, arranging seating charts to keep relatives who hate each other apart, and making sure that no niece and nephew has been forgotten, and won’t be waking up on Christmas morning wondering why you suddenly think so little of them. In a typical year, this is when the Christmas crunch is resounding off the hills and prompting so many folks into a frenzy.

The gift-buying, while likely not at the levels you’ll normally see, is still a thing. Jodie has a big family, and purchases gifts for all the nieces and nephews. I have zero siblings, and zero people in my clan to buy for, except for my mother. I spent yesterday being meticulous only in my writing and publishing work. That said, I’m still expecting someone will message me with a typo, thus indicating that I’d left an I un-dotted. We’ll see.

Jodie checked her list once more, and found that all she’s missing is a few more presents for me. Not really, but she’ll read this, and maybe the subliminal message that I need more treats and more booze will sink in and prompt some capitalist inspiration on her part. We’ll see.

The best part of this day shows up now that it’s over. Until December 20, 2021, we don’t have to pay attention to every last detail of what we do. Dot Your I’s Day only comes once a year!

Mudd Day

Celebrating his 187th birthday yesterday was Dr. Samuel Mudd, a man you may have never heard of, and a man who probably doesn’t deserve his own special day in this celebration-fest. But here we are, without much to cheer us forward on December 20, making mention of the guy, and learning a little something about him.

Sammy Mudd was a doctor who also owned a small tobacco plantation right before the Civil War. The war took a toll on his livelihood, which led him to consider selling the farm and focusing on his doctor work. The man who came to potentially buy the place? John Wilkes Booth. This meeting was the beginning of a long, weird chain of events that would bring Sammy to the brink of death.

The details of how well John and Sam knew each other are somewhat sketchy. They certainly met a few times, though some who knew him claim that there’s no way Sammy would have gone along with John’s original plan, which was to kidnap President Lincoln and ransom him for the release of some high-profile Confederate prisoners. But after John shot the president and broke his leg trying to flee Ford’s Theatre, it was to Mudd’s that he and co-conspirator David Herold went. Mudd set the leg with a splint and hooked him up with some crutches. He then waited about 24 hours before alerting the authorities.

That wasn’t smart. Whether or not he was in on the job, or simply happened to be the doctor John Booth knew would do his medical duty and fix his leg, that was something the courts tried to figure out. Sammy Mudd was sentenced to life in prison. Only one jurist’s vote spared him from the death penalty. A couple years into his sentence, a yellow fever epidemic broke out in the prison and killed the prison doctor. Mudd took over the role and likely saved a number of souls. Was it an act of redemption? Or was Mudd just the type of dude who took his medical oath seriously enough to save lives (or splint legs) when the need arose?

Samuel Mudd was pardoned in 1869, and he lived another 14 years before pneumonia took him down at age 45. He’s a fascinating character in one of America’s most incredible historical tales. I still don’t know why his birthday is an official day in our calendar, but there it was. A great little story.

Games Day

I had figured this would simply be a generic day to remind us that the holidays are here, people are sitting around looking for things to do, so why not play some board games? A truly dull premise for a celebration, but an acceptable way to pass the time.

But no, this day has the heft of history behind it. In August 1975, a gaming convention was cancelled, prompting Games Workshop, which I assume is a company that creates games in the UK, created their own little version of the convention on December 20 of that year. Every year, people gather at the National Exhibition Centre in Birmingham to game their hearts out. We’re talking more about games like Dungeons & Dragons, Warhammer 40,000 and Magic: The Gathering. People aren’t gathering in a convention centre to play Sorry or Monopoly.

The trend has spread around the world, but of course this year I’m sure it was scrapped, along with pretty much everything else fun on the planet. That’s okay; we could keep the spirit alive, even though none of us play any of those games.

For starters, we had numerous football games to watch throughout the afternoon, which fit the vibe nicely. Then in the evening, I played a fun little chunk of Red Dead Redemption 2. Jodie is not a fan of board games, and she showed only the mildest of interest in learning how to play chess earlier this year, but I’m sure we’ll dive into a few of those before our break is over. Abbey and I will have fun. So will Jodie, even though she claims she never does when we play board games.

She always does. We know this.

A Monday free of work, with only a bit of near-last minute shopping to do, plus whatever the calendar throws our way. Turns out it’s throwing this:

  • National French Fried Shrimp Day. Abbey is not a fan of shrimp, so making it while she’s staying with us would be astoundingly rude. We aren’t known for our astounding rudeness.
  • National Maine Day. We will celebrate this with some classic lobster a little later on this week.
  • Crossword Puzzle Day. Crosswords are 107 years old. I’ll muck around with one today.
  • Winter Solstice. Our final season change for the year. We’ll find some way to honour it.
  • Yule. Satanists apparently celebrate this day instead of Christmas. Not sure we want to wander into that little conflict, but we’ll see.
  • National Short Girl Appreciation Day. Well this will be easy.
  • Humbug Day. A day to express some of our grumpiness about the holiday season. This will be just about as easy to celebrate as the last one.
  • Celebrate Short Fiction Day. A day for some short stories, short films, or a puppet show with tiny puppets.
  • Shorts Day. Why? Why in December? Who decided this?
  • Don’t Make Your Bed Day. Celebrations in which we don’t have to do something are like getting a freebie. Damn, this is shaping up to be our last huge day of celebrations in 2020.
  • National Flashlight Day. Use a flashlight? Okay.
  • International Dalek Remembrance Day. Whovians around the world unite and remember the fallen daleks.
  • National Coquito Day. It’s a rum beverage, which is awesome. But we’d need coconut milk and evaporated milk, and my lactose intolerance is just telling me to drink the damn rum on its own.
  • National Hamburger Day. Wow, these are really crammed in for a Monday, aren’t they?
  • National Look At The Bright Side Day. We will be celebrating a lot. On the bright side, this should give us an excuse to do next to nothing for the rest of the year.
  • National Kiwi Fruit Day. Oi vey.
  • Ribbon Candy Day. I guess we found a second use for Abbey’s ribbon candy.
  • Phileas Fogg Win A Wager Day. Should we travel around the world? Or just use Google Earth?

Sunday, December 20, 2020

While much of yesterday was occupied by a run for supplies and a period of recovery from the season 2 finale of The Mandalorian, we still managed to address the list of potential celebrations. Oatmeal muffins were eliminated from the menu, as we didn’t have any on hand and we aren’t big enough fans to track them down. We’ve got a weird little lockdown going on right now, with only 15% of a store’s capacity allowed through the door at a time. This means our favourite bakery will be lined up around the block. That runs counter to not only the Christmas spirit, but also the general celebratory spirit we’ve embraced all year long. Still, we had all this to keep us busy:

National Hard Candy Day

You hear about hard candy, but no one ever talks about ‘soft’ candy. Why do we only differentiate when the candy moves from chewy to crunchy? This is as deep as I feel like digging into this topic.

I’m a fan of hard candy. As a loyalist to my sweet tooth, I have always enjoyed a variety of enamel-testing sweetness. My grandmother used to have a candy dish of humbugs on her coffee table. It was particularly fun when they’d all glom together into one misshapen humbug. My favourite candy as a kid was scotch mints, ideally with the insides all crumbly and English mint-ish, rather than chewy. And those little cinnamon hearts are always a treat. Don’t even get me started on the majesty of peppermints.

Were we not already shoulder-deep in baked goods (see yesterday’s article), we might have taken some time and gorged on hard candies yesterday. But we have five people’s worth of cookies to eat, and only three people here for the season. We have our work laid out before us, and sprinkling hard candy on top of it all might have been too much. But candy canes check off both boxes of hard candy’s requirements, so this one filled in quite nicely.

This has truly been a year of utter indulgence. And it doesn’t appear to be slowing down in its calorie-rich insanity, even as the year starts to waddle toward the closing curtain. We’ll make it. We can endure all this delicious work.

National Emo Day

“Emo” is a subculture of mostly youths, one that most adults who do not have school-aged children may not be aware of. It’s an evolution of the mopey disenfranchised punk, or those folks in the 80s who cranked up the Cure, wore a lot of black and moped a lot. This is not meant to confuse them with goths, who also wear a lot of black (and who may or may not also be into the Cure), but who do so with a different aesthetic and purpose.

Abbey went through an emo phase, and from that time she kept as a souvenir an appreciation for bands like My Chemical Romance, who found a way to tap into that teen angst and prompt it to greater percolation. I wasn’t aware that the emo crowd was in need of their own day, but apparently they are. As far back as 2009 there’s an entry for this day in the Urban Dictionary online, and depending on which entry you subscribe to, it’s either a day for celebrating the emo folks in your life, or for hunting them down to beat them up. Needless to say, we are in the former camp, as the latter is fairly off-brand for our kind ‘n loving vibe.

I took a few moments out of the day to listen to some Emo Phillips, a standup comedian who has nothing to do with the emo lifestyle, but who is surreal and bizarre enough to no doubt launch even the most morose, bang-flipping emo mopester into cautious, confused laughter. I also listened to a track or two of the mood music, but it didn’t stick for me.

It’s an odd day to show up in December, and I can find no reason why it lands on the 19th. Maybe it’s to counter-balance the festive, colourful cheer all over the place. Whatever the reason, happy (or hopelessly dejected) National Emo Day to all.

Look For An Evergreen Day

Likely an off-shoot of the days of yore when anyone who wanted to celebrate Christmas had to do so with an actual murdered tree in their homes, this is a day to look for a suitable evergreen. As mentioned last week, I have only once had an actual butchered tree in my house. It was messy, but made our basement room smell delightful.

Like most people, we have already set up our tree this year. I saw trees lit up the day after Halloween, most likely because we’re all eager to get 2020 behind us and hope for better days ahead. Also like most people, we use an artificial tree. It saves money, it’s easy to set up and take down, and we don’t get a bunch of needles embedded in our floor. So we had no need to look for an evergreen.

But why would I include this day if we weren’t going to indulge in the celebration? This is the kind of question I tend not to ask myself, because if ‘why’ was a significant factor in anything we were doing this year, our brains might explode. We simply did. And I found one, right outside our house. We have shown this tree before, though I’m pretty sure it has grown substantially over the year. It’s an evergreen tree that seemed to magically appear in our yard one year, just popping up out of the ground, despite our not having planted it. So I took a shot of the little dude in the snow. Last year he was completely buried. This year he gets a view of the world. For now, anyway.

Technically we could have celebrated this anywhere, even in our bathroom. It’s not Find an Evergreen Day; you could look anywhere you want to for an evergreen. Check your pantry. Pop into your freezer. Go nuts!

So close to the end of the year we can smell it, here’s what awaits us on the penultimate Sunday of 2020:

  • National Sangria Day. This one is tricky… we just picked up lots of booze yesterday, and we really aren’t feeling sangria. We’ll see.
  • Games Day. On a Sunday? Packed with football games? Sounds great!
  • Dot Your I’s Day. I wonder if Cross Your T’s day shows up tomorrow. Or maybe on Christmas. That might be more appropriate.
  • Cathode-Ray Tube Day. Hooray for antiquated tech!
  • Mudd Day. Not about the Star Trek guy, but about the guy who helped John Wilkes Booth hide out.